Sanford was a second attempt NBC-TV to revive the 1972–1977 sitcom Sanford and Son, and the second spin-off attempt after the first, the short-lived NBC sitcom The Sanford Arms, failed miserably after eight episodes in 1977. Sanford, which premiered in the middle of the 1979-80 season. completely ignored the storyline of its failed spinoff predecessor "Sanford Arms", in that while Sanford Arms had Fred and Lamont selling the junkyard and the Sanford Arms hotel (Julio's old home) to an old Army buddy Phil Wheeler and moving, Sanford had Fred still living at the residence and owning the junkyard, with a friend of Lamont's named Cal Pettie (Dennis Burkley), who worked with him on the Alaska pipeline , and who was working as a trucker before coming to visit Fred, dispatched to visit Fred and possibly help Fred run the junkyard/hotel at Lamont's request.
In 1977, after six seasons of Sanford and Son, Redd Foxx decided to leave the popular NBC show to star in a variety show for ABC-TV. His new show, The Redd Foxx Comedy Hour, was cancelled after four months. Foxx returned to NBC two years later in an effort to revive the character of Fred Sanford. By the 1979–1980 season, NBC had fallen to third place in the Nielsen ratings (out of only three networks at the time) and had no programs ranked in the top 10. Because of this, NBC was also eager to revive its most successful show of the 1970s.
The first seasonEdit
Sanford premiered in March 1980 as a midseason replacement. Demond Wilson refused to reprise his role as Fred's son, Lamont. His absence was explained by having Lamont away working on the Alaska Pipeline. Fred's new partner in the junkyard was Cal (Dennis Burkley), an obese white Texan with a generally optimistic, jovial, and upbeat demeanor. Cal had worked with Lamont on the pipeline and Lamont sent him to visit his father. Cal moves into Lamont's old room. Rollo Larson (Nathaniel Taylor), a recurring character on the previous series, was now working for Fred as a delivery man (The events of the series Sanford Arms -- wherein Fred and Lamont had moved to Arizona after selling the property to Fred's Army buddy Phil Wheeler—were ignored).
Sanford found Fred with a new love interest, as Lynn Hamilton did not revive the role of Donna Harris, Fred's fiancee from Sanford and Son. Instead, Fred meets a customer who is an affluent widow named Evelyn. The two begin dating much to the dismay of Evelyn's snobbish brother Winston, who was played by Percy Rodrigues, who also appeared in Sanford and Son as a love interest of Donna Harris, Fred's fiancee on that series in the episode "Olympics" (Season 5, Episode #11), and sharp-tongued maid Clara who see Fred as low-class. Her daughter Cissy was more accepting of Fred. Later in the season, Aunt Esther's college student son Cliff (Clinton Derricks-Carroll) moves in with Fred and Cal and starts dating Cissy. (In the original series Cliff's name was Daniel.) Officers Smitty and Hoppy (Hal Williams and Howard T. Platt), recurring characters from the original series, appeared in two episodes. Sammy Davis Jr. appeared as himself in two episodes: first in an uncredited cameo appearance (for which he also directed the episode) and then in the season finale in which Fred persuades Davis to perform for Evelyn's charity.
The show was highly promoted by NBC and the premiere episode garnered decent ratings, however the ratings fell steadily as the season progressed. The show wound up ranking outside the top 30 of the Nielsen ratings for the 1979-1980 season, whereas Sanford and Son consistently ranked in the top 10 except in its final season (By that time, the original series had dropped to #27). Sanford was then put on hiatus to be retooled.
The second seasonEdit
The show returned in January 1981 again as a mid-season replacement. The show was moved from Saturdays to Fridays. The original series of the 1970s dominated on Friday night for several seasons. Aunt Esther (LaWanda Page), appeared in the two-part season premiere (along with another episode later in the season). It was explained that her husband Woodrow has died and she was moving in to prevent Fred from being a bad influence on Cliff. While Derricks-Carroll was now featured in the opening credits, he only appeared in a few episodes of the season. This season now focused more on the relationship between Fred and Cal. Evelyn was now reduced to a recurring character and eventually disappeared by the end of the season. The characters of Rollo, Winston, Cissy and Clara were dropped with no explanation. Grady Wilson (Whitman Mayo), another popular recurring character from the original series, appeared in two episodes as a special guest star. Officers Smitty and Hoppy also reappeared several times.
The retooled Sanford performed very poorly in the ratings and was quickly canceled. NBC pulled the series after four episodes and aired the remaining episodes in the summer.
- Redd Foxx - Fred Sanford
- Dennis Burkley - Cal Pettie
- Nathaniel Taylor - Rollo Lawson (Season 1)
- LaWanda Page - Esther Anderson (12 episodes stretching through both seasons)
- Marguerite Ray - Evelyn Lewis (Season 1, recurring in Season 2)
- Cathy Cooper - Clara (Season 1)
- Suzanne Stone - Cissy Lewis (Season 1)
- Clinton Derricks-Carroll - Clifford Anderson (recurring in Season 1, listed in opening credits in Season 2)
- Percy Rodrigues - Winston Edwards (Season 1)
- Main article: List of Sanford episodes
Sanford has not been included in the syndication package with Sanford and Son. However, reruns aired on BET throughout the 1990s. The show returned to BET in March 2008. To celebrate the return, an all day marathon of all 26 episodes occurred on March 8, 2008 to celebrate Daylight Savings Time as 'San-forward'.
- Brooks, Tim; Earl Marsh (2003). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows. Ballantine Books. ISBN 0-345-45542-8.
- The Ironic Death of Redd Fox Part Two